Feature #23: Katie & Ashley

Katie Vickers.pngKatie 

Age: 21

Career: Unemployed, had to medically withdraw from school

When did you cease using topical steroids:  July 2015

What type did you use: I used Triamcinolone 0.1% for 8 years, had a few rounds of oral steroids/shots of Kenalog

What is your favorite product for comfort? Lemongrass Balm and Frankincense

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The hardest part of TSW is the physical pain. There are days where I’m in so much pain that I can’t even think straight. The ooze is a close second though.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? First thing I’m doing is taking a trip somewhere fun and exciting. I’m not sure where yet, but I’m going to make sure to live it up and not to take life for granted. Oh, and I’m also gonna drink a margarita.


Ashley  ashley-c

Age: 29

Career: Attorney and Dance Teacher

When did you cease using topical steroids:  November 24, 2015

What type did you use: I used many different types, but the last two I was on were triamcinolone and clobetasol

What is your favorite product for comfort? 3 things: 1. White t-shirts- they’re great to wear around the house because they are loose and breathable and I also use them to wrap my arms or neck during flare-ups; 2. Benadryl to help me sleep during the unbearable itchy nights; 3. Aquaphor

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Sleepless nights dealing with the bone deep itch & trying to maintain as much of a normal life as possible

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Workout and take a pain free shower

Feature #22: Zuzana & Kara

zuzanaZuzana 

Age: 32

Career: Work at a help desk, but now on Maternity Leave (but may have had to quit due to TSW if it wasn’t for Maternity Leave)

When did you cease using topical steroids:  Sept. 17, 2016 (Previous tries — 10/15, 12/15, 3-6/16) Also ended Cyclo (an immunosuppressant) 300mg in January 2017

What type did you use: Dexa- and betamethasone ointments, Hydrocortisone and methylprednisolone shots, 1 round of oral steroids – Prednisone in 02/15

What is your favorite product for comfort? Vaseline + ichthamole and zinc oxide, tea tree oil for scalp, Probiotics, gluten and alcohol free diet. When I use the bath: Dead Sea salt, Epsom salt, ACV, tea tree oil, but now I just shortly shower

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Insomnia – the nights, hair loss, how itchy and oozy it is, being scratched to death and not being able to do anything about it, to care for my baby, to wear clothes – People thinking it us just a rash and telling me not to scratch – Being a burden to my family – Skin and smell is everywhere

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Take my daughter to the pool as she loves water and to swim, enjoy life again, live again and touch my dogs again.


Kara kara-headshot

Age: 38

Career: Attorney and COO

When did you cease using topical steroids: September 30, 2012

What type did you use: Cloderm

What was your favorite product for comfort? Dead sea salt baths, castor oil

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Disfigurement of my face and anxiety about seeing people, especially at work because I was a trial attorney at the time.

What was the first thing you did when you healed? I got dressed up, took off my glasses, and went out to a nice dinner at a winery with my boyfriend. A couple of months later I also cut off my hair, which I had been hiding behind during my recovery.

Feature #21: Danny & Fleur

Danny Brooks.jpgDanny Brooks

Age: 24

Career: Was a sports staff member for RCCL

When did you cease using topical steroids: Oct 20th 2016

What type did you use: A large variety of tablets and creams over several years

What is your favorite product for comfort? Cetroben (heavy moisturizer)

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Around the 2 month mark I developed loads of tiny blisters all over my feet which burst when I walked making it incredibly painful to stand and walk until they eventually healed after about a week. (also happened on my hands)

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Reapply for my job as I loved my short time working on cruise ships!


Fleur Rose Blanchelorraine-blanche

Age: 10

Career: n/a

When did you cease using topical steroids: Nov. 13, 2016

What type did you use: Used Betnovate on and off since October 2015 for patches of eczema behind the knees and inside of elbows.

What is your favorite product for comfort? Calendula talc when skin won’t tolerate ointments. When it can, I like Egyptian Magic cream

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The flares with oozing, (they scare me), the itch is worst part now , also having to give up dancing and pulling out of a show in February. I miss my friends, school and gymnastics.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Playing my instruments and dance lessons.

Feature #19: Liz & Joana

liz-kingElizabeth King

Age: 40

Career: Unemployed due to TSW and fibromyalgia

When did you cease using topical steroids: June 13 2015

What type did you use: Honestly can’t remember them all.

What is your favorite product for comfort? A bath with sea salt, apple cider vinegar, and Aquafor. I also take LDN which helps.

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The pain (physical and emotional) and shedding.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Swim in the ocean!


Joanna Hinzjoanna-hinz

Age: 31

Career: Unemployed due to TSW

When did you cease using topical steroids: May 2015

What type did you use: Fucicort, Elomet, Hydrocortizone, Elidel, Protopic, Elocom

What is your favorite product for comfort? Beeswax/Olive Oil, Lavender essential oil as a sleeping aid, apple cider vinegar

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? 

It is very difficult to narrow down only one part which was the hardest since the condition affects all parts of your life. I will just try to say what I feel are the top three hardest things:

* Being bedridden with your life being on hold and the disconnect from the outside world due to physical non-functionality, chronic pain and anxieties, while everyone around you is chasing their dreams and continues with normal day to day life

* Having no relief or break ever and months and months of sleepless and itchy nights, the suffering which goes with it during those hours of no sleep; while my body needed all the rest to re-gain strength and energy for my next day of trying to cope with responsibilities as a mother and wife, with no family support as I do not live in my home country.

* The way the condition affects a previously healthy mind in the worst ways possible and messes with your perception of the world around you, yourself, your loved ones, bringing the darkest and most negative thoughts you never knew existed before.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? I will love pursuing my career, enjoy the warmth of sun rays on my skin, go to the beach and swim with my son in the sea, go back to my passion of being physically active: working out, dancing and yoga.

Interview #9: Mattiel Brown

mattielMattiel Brown

Atlanta, GA

“All Things Must Pass” – George Harrison

1.When did you start using topical steroids? And why?

When I was about seven years old, I used Desonide cream very sparingly for eczema around my mouth and ears. This was not the period where I became addicted to steroids, though. I was fine as a teenager and only experienced very occasional, small spots of eczema.

2. What was the name of the topical steroid?

Desonide .05% cream (and I also used some Protopic)

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

Yes, but I didn’t use the whole tube and not for very long.
Triamcinolone cream. Used for small spots of eczema around mouth.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

Video of Dr.Rapaport’s interview on youtube.

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

My eczema was spreading to places that I’d never had it before – my neck started breaking out, my back… it was just a sign that something was NOT normal.

6. Were you diagnosed by a doctor? Did you have a supportive doctor?

Diagnosed with eczema, told that it was a very hard disease to treat. I did not have a supportive doctor until I met a “naturalist” doctor named Dr.Maziar Rezvani in Marietta, GA. He helped me through the later stages of my withdrawal after I explained the situation to him. Very supportive doc.

7. What were your first symptoms?

Rashes spreading to unfamiliar areas, very sensitive skin, burning, swelling eyes, yeast infections, and after using Protopic I started to get styes in my eyes and even a cyst in my arm. These were all very strange symptoms to me and a sign that something was not normal.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

Yes, my mother and boyfriend were extremely supportive and believed in TSW after I explained the situation thoroughly.

9. Have you ever been to a hospital for this? Why?

No.

10. What has been the hardest part of this condition?

Physically, it was very difficult. But mentally – I was really a wreck at about one year into my withdrawal and I had to see a counselor. I was in a very, very dark place and couldn’t sleep, hated having to go through the day, and was in a lot of pain – I was so depressed. Worst experience of my life was the mental toll this took on me.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

April 2014 / August 2016. I would say it took 26-28 months for me to say I’m definitely healed.

12. What do you use as comfort measures during this?

I got a prescription for muscle relaxers to help me sleep.

13. Are you employed? Has this affected your job status?

I am employed and I stayed employed during my whole withdrawal. The only time I took off was two weeks last summer to collect myself mentally when it was getting really tough.

14. Have you gone to therapy/wish to go to therapy because of this condition?

Yes, I had to see a therapist. It helped me a lot – just to have someone to talk to and to see their outside perspective.

15. If there is one thing you could say to another sufferer, what would it be?

This will be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do in life. Period. It will end, but it is a long, difficult process and you will need support from friends and family (and hopefully a doctor). It’s a very hard situation to explain to other people (especially traditional dermatologists), and it’s even hard to understand what your body is going through when you’re suffering from it. And as hard as it is to believe, you will look back on this experience as a tiny fraction of your life. A period of your life that REALLY sucked but it ended. It DOES end.


Thank you for such a terrific interview, Mattiel!

Why are we seeing the body as parts instead of as a whole?

I feel Chris Kresser said it best:

“In conventional medicine, there’s a doctor for each different body part, and so if you have heart disease and you have eczema, you go see the cardiologist for heart disease, you see the dermatologist for eczema, maybe you see an immunologist if you have an autoimmune disease, and all of these things are being looked at as separate conditions. As a patient, it can be pretty bewildering to just have this idea that you have all of these kind of separate and disconnected things happening and not to have an idea that there might be a common root cause that’s driving all of these pathologies. Of course, what that means is if there is a common root cause, then there’s a possibility of intervening at that level and seeing an improvement across the board in all of these conditions instead of trying to address each of them in a kind of silo fashion with specific drugs and things for each condition.” (CHRIS KRESSER PODCAST)

Now a days, when something is wrong and it’s pinpointed to a certain part of the body, we are referred to a specialist. This doctors specifically sees patients with one particular problem or problem area. It’s absolutely wonderful to have doctors well versed in one particular area of study, but why is it that when we speak of one problem in our body, that it is never thought to be connected to us as a whole? We are one huge machine.

When doctors now speak about the gut, and how so many other issues in the body arise from our gut not functioning properly, it makes absolute sense! Where do we get our energy? Food. Where does the food go? Into our mouths and down into our stomach and intestines and colon to get digested. Where do we get our nutrients from? Digesting the food! If we are eating foods that are creating a major imbalance in our digestive system, then we aren’t getting the proper fuel we need to function, which in turn can disrupt a slew of organs in our body. It can affect our brain, our eyes, our motor function, our muscle growth, our hormone levels and moods, our bone density, our blood circulation, and for us sufferers, our skin!

My biggest concern with modern medicine is the fact that it masks these problems. I recently watched a commercial for a pharmaceutical medication for helping lower cholesterol. This 1 minute segment was horrifyingly riddleddddd with side effects, including DEATH. Why on earth do we accept this form of treatment? Because it’s easier than changing our diet? That is the craziest excuse out there! We would rather risk death than yielding from a 3x a week McDonalds run?

This is where our solution lies! I will never bash steroids, be it orally, injection, or topically, because they are truly important in the medical community. However, what I can not and will not stand for any longer is the chronic use of this drug as a first line treatment for conditions that NEED to be better evaluated first because, chances are, patients don’t even need the steroids!! If you’re going into anaphylactic shock, of course take a steroid!! But, if you have eczema and you go into a doctor’s office and the first thing they do is write you a prescription for a steroid without evaluating it further… absolutely wrong (in my opinion). That is fast food service. You are receiving the McDonald’s $1 value menu treatment, and that is what is hurting so many around the world from ACTUALLY getting better.

Now, are there conditions that sadly may need chronic bursts of steroids? Yes there are. BUT, we should be finding alternative ways to help maintain a better balance for these conditions than subject innocent patients to the severe consequences that taking steroids chronically has on the body.


If we start looking at our body as a whole, instead of our problems being directed by the area they are located, we may start to see some real change in our world. And when it comes to Red Skin Syndrome prevention, this is VITAL! Taking the time to find out what is truly wrong with your skin, which may be actually stemming from gut issues, can save you so much pain and suffering. I would much rather give up dairy, or wheat, or fast foods (or all three if needed!) if that meant living a life that wasn’t constantly bombarded with skin concerns and anxiety for having to deal with them on a daily basis.

Are we perfect? No. It’s not always easy to eat optimally every single day of our lives (goodness, Christmas is upon us!), but we can make an extremely conscious effort to do it everyday. It’s important to stick to the diet that works for you 100% of the time, but give yourself credit.

Find a doctor who is willing to work with you, as an individual human being, and who cares about finding out what will work for you. They will take the time to dissect you from the inside out to pinpoint what is causing you harm AND help you live your life to it’s highest potential. No one deserves fast food treatment, especially if it leads to something as devastating as Red Skin Syndrome.

 

Interview #8: Stephanie Miller

stephamie-millerStephanie Miller

Brooklyn/Queens, NY

‘At the end of the day, we can endure more than we think we can’–Frida Kahlo 

‘Be easy, take your time. You are coming home to yourself’—Nayyirah Waheed

 

1.When did you start using topical steroids? And why?

I think it started when I was about 6. I was definitely in elementary school at the time. I developed regular eczema when I started a new school, and my parents took me to the dermatologist. That’s when they started to give me ‘rash medicine’ as my family always called it. I never went to bed without putting “medicine” on my skin.

2. What was the name of the topical steroid?

I don’t remember the first potency they gave me, but I do remember they kept prescribing more potent ones as my body became ‘immune’ to the less potent ones. That’s what the doctors always said was happening…*eye roll*. I remember having tubes of all types of steroids all over the house, especially the tiny tester ones. Doctors would always give me handfuls of those.

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

Yes, I used every topical steroid under the sun until they prescribed Clobetasol when I was 14. During the summer before high school, my family moved to a new town, and I remember my skin getting better. Between high school and college, eczema was never an issue. I may have put dabs of steroids on my skin every now and then, but it definitely burned out as doctors said it would. However, during the summers between college, I started working at a summer camp in my old hometown. Within 3 weeks, my eczema came back. But then, when I would fly back to Massachusetts where I went to school, the eczema would go away. By my fourth summer at the summer camp, my eczema returned ferociously. I went to the dermatologist where they immediately gave me Clobetasol and Protopic. They said use the Protopic regularly, and the Clobetasol occasionally. Well, the Protopic didn’t work…so I used Clobetasol…and boy did that work wonders. I am pretty positive that’s when my addiction started. After that summer, I moved to NYC. It was September 2011. My skin was still a major struggle, but I didn’t let it stop me. I had my tube of Clobetasol just in case. For the record, I used it as prescribed….”twice a day (morning and night) for 2 weeks”. Usually I would only need it for a week, then my skin would clear up! But, as the story goes, when that week or 2 weeks of using the cream ended, my “eczema” would come back with a vengeance within 2 to 4 weeks. I thought I was allergic to the city, but I loved it too much to leave. From 2011 to the beginning of 2015, that was my struggle. My right palm suffered the most, but I would also get small patches on my arms, my torso, and legs. I knew I shouldn’t be using steroids long term, so I tried to avoid it. I would only use it when my skin became unbearable. The relief was always worth it even if it only lasted a month, 2 weeks, or less.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

Back in January 2015, I used topical steroids for the last time, and my “eczema” came back within a week and started to spread to places I had never seen it before… and it was spreading fast—the backs of my hands, big patches on my legs and arms, my left palm. That was a huge wake up call. I decided to take control of my “eczema”, and went on the autoimmune protocol diet for 6 weeks. I was promised that I would see great healing after a month, but my skin only got worse and worse. As I was doing research on ways to heal eczema naturally, I kept coming across ITSAN. When I initially learned about it, I was in denial. I was convinced that if I kept up with my diet, I would heal. Well that didn’t work. I stayed on a pretty strict diet for 5 months, and my skin only got worse.

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

As I continued my research, ITSAN kept popping up on Google. Once I actually looked at the pictures closely, I knew instantly that my skin looked EXACTLY the same. I also remember looking at Briana’s blog, and her pictures looked like my skin!  It was surreal. I thought I was looking at my own hands, my own legs, my own arms. Then I distinctly remember watching the animated videos that ITSAN made…that story was my story….I stopped breathing and burst into tears. I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders. I remember watching Dr. Rapaport’s interview immediately after and felt a huge sense of relief. I WAS GOING TO BE ECZEMA FREE. The journey would be hard, but I WOULD HEAL.

6. Were you diagnosed by a doctor? Did you have a supportive doctor?

Nope and nope. I diagnosed myself.

7. What were your first symptoms?

Spreading red rashes that began to cover my hands…and I mean my whole hands. Also, within 3-4 weeks, I had the infamous red sleeves and pant legs.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

I don’t live near my parents, so they didn’t have any control. They were emotionally supportive from afar, but I do think they would have questioned my choice if they actually witnessed what I was going through. Now that I have made a ton of progress, they are very supportive of my decision. My friends were supportive, but I kept very quiet about it for the first 4 months. I didn’t start owning the condition until month 5 or 6. Even while I was suffering during the worst of it, I was so disconnected from my body, that I wasn’t feeling anything. I covered everything up and numbed myself as I continued with my life9. Have you ever been to a hospital for this?

9. Have you ever been to a hospital for this? Why?

Oh yes. Back in May of this year, 2016, I was 15 months or so in. I was still suffering terribly from my anniversary flare. It had spread full body, which was a lot worse than my initial flare. At the very end of April, I suddenly felt a strong pain on my right side…right under my armpit. Within, 2 hours I got a fever of probably 102. I went home, tried to sleep it off for the next two days, but my fever wasn’t breaking and the pain kept spreading. On May 1st, I went to urgent care. They took my vitals and said I had to be rushed to the hospital. I was going into septic shock. They took a ton of blood, hooked me up to antibiotics and fluids. I don’t remember the chronology, but essentially within a day or two, they found strep and staph in my blood. My lungs were filling up with fluid, and my right breast was infected with mastitis. They also gave me a hydrocortisone IV, which I was very hesitant at first…but at that point, I just wanted them to save my life. My skin cleared up for a week! Woohoo! It looked strong and beautiful. Looking back, I’m grateful that I agreed to it because the nurses were taking my blood multiple times a day. That would have been even more of a nightmare if my skin was still flaming red. However, after the first week of clear skin, the redness and rashes started to creep up on me and grow, which proves that it was the steroids that caused all of my problems. Anyways, I was in the hospital for a total of 17 days. I had reoccurring fevers for most of the two weeks because my body was still trying to fight the infection. I’ve made a full recovery though!!

10. What has been the hardest part of this condition?

The rebound flare definitely. By January of 2016, I thought in my deepest heart that my skin was only going to get better. By February, my anniversary flare started to spread. By April, I was in an almost full body flare. I didn’t struggle with that at all during my initial one. The days when you wake up and know it’s only getting worse are the hardest. You never know when you’ve reached the abyss before you turn a corner and start to heal. You just have to breathe, suck it up, and do whatever you can to stay comfortable.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

I’ve been at it for almost 21 months. Unfortunately, now I am struggling with the fact that since I got the hydrocortisone IV in the hospital, I’m technically not 21 months into my withdrawal. I’m almost 6 months steroid free. But, I’ve been suffering for 21. I started my initial withdrawal unknowingly in mid January of 2015, and I’m doing really well right now.

12. What do you use as comfort measures during this?

Anything to make me laugh. Last year, I re-watched all 10 seasons of Friends. The Office is also another comfort show.  I also realized how important my close friends are to me, and I recognized that they are the ones that make me feel human. That was also a major psychological struggle during this journey. Since you’re physical self is such a mess, you feel inhuman. Your body doesn’t feel like yours. For the past 2 years, my limbs have felt like these other disgusting creatures that I have to nurture. They’re not mine….they’re not mine…

13. Are you employed? Has this affected your job status?

No, fortunately this hasn’t affected my job status, except when I was in the hospital. I’m a nanny, and the family was very understanding and allowed me to care for their child however it suited my needs. Fortunately, my face was never severely affected, so I was able to hide my condition under long sleeves and gloves.

14. Have you gone to therapy/wish to go to therapy because of this condition?

No…but I need to. I’ve done this completely alone. No caregivers. I’ve had friends to talk to and cry to…but I’ve been able to pretend that I’m fine. I talk about it as if it hasn’t affected me…but it has…and it’s been really fucking hard to face it.

15. If there is one thing you could say to another sufferer, what would it be?

It’s a gift. Fucking trust me. Your quality of life will transform. It will develop on its own time. Healing is not linear. It’s not it’s not its not. This, my love, will only make you stronger. YOU. ARE. A. WARRIOR.

Just be. Listen to your body. Don’t beat yourself up about anything. There’s no right way to heal. You have to trust your gut and take action on your own time. Everyone’s journey is drastically different, and we can’t compare. The only things that remain true amongst all of us are…and I mean all of us…the story, the symptoms, and the moment you realize you have RSS are all the same. And it’s one of the most empowering discoveries you’ll ever experience.

Oh and take pictures, especially at your worst. You won’t regret it. You’ll forget how much pain you were in, and the pictures are a reminder that you are a fucking warrior. Don’t ever underestimate that.

Last, but not least….

You are loved.


You are certainly loved, Stephanie! Thank you for a lovely interview!